Kayak Crappie Fishing: Full Guide

by Tim Mueller

If you buy through links on our site, we may earn commissions at no extra cost to you. Learn More.

Kayak crappie fishing is one of the most enjoyable fishing experience.

But, with a multitude of resources available, how do you pinpoint the most effective strategies for this distinctive style of angling?

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll navigate the waters of kayak crappie fishing, shedding light on its nuances, benefits, and how it measures up against other fishing styles.

So, let’s get started!

Let’s Talk Crappie

Understanding these aspects of crappie fishing is crucial to becoming a successful angler.

Known for their delicious taste and exciting fights, crappie are a prized catch in freshwater bodies across the globe.

Crappie are mostly minnow eaters, and minnows hide around any kind of brush or weeds to avoid being eaten. The key to catching crappie is to focus on fishing wherever minnows hide. That includes fallen trees, bushes, old piers, flooded weeds, or shoals covered with moss, plus wrecked boats, docks, and planted brush piles.

There are two species of crappie: black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) and white crappie (Pomoxis annularus). Both species are considered excellent food fish and sportfish, and they have sweet, white flaky meat.

The black crappie and white crappie are silvery olive to bronze with dark spots.

Black Crappie & White Crappie

The spots on the black crappie are irregularly arranged, while on the white crappie, they appear in seven or eight vertical bands.

Black crappie prefer cooler, deeper, clearer waters with more abundant aquatic vegetation than do white crappie. This includes still backwater lakes, sloughs, creeks, streams, lakes, and ponds.

White crappie occur in creek backwaters, slow-flowing streams, sand and mud-bottomed pools, small to large rivers, and lakes and ponds. They prefer shallower water and can tolerate warmer, more turbid, and slightly alkaline waters.

Let’s dive deeper into the world of kayak crappie fishing in the next section next.

Tips For Kayak Crappie Fishing

Crappie fishing from a kayak is a unique experience that requires a blend of skill, knowledge, and the right approach.

Here are some valuable tips that will help you master the art of kayak crappie fishing:

Understanding Crappie

Over the years, I’ve observed that understanding the behavior and habitat of crappie is crucial for a successful catch.

Crappie are schooling fish, often found in large groups around submerged structures. They prefer warmer waters, making them a popular target in the spring and summer months.

I’ve noticed that crappie are more active during dawn and dusk, often feeding near the surface during these times. As the water temperature rises during the day, they tend to move deeper.

Keeping these behaviors in mind has helped me decide when and where to cast my line for the best results.

Choosing the Right Lures

I’ve found that crappie are attracted to a variety of lures, including jigs, spinners, and small crankbaits.

To be more specific, the water clarity and light conditions often guide my choice of lure:

On sunny days or in clear water, I opt for more natural, subtle colors. In contrast, on overcast days or in murky water, I’ve found that brighter colors or metallic finishes are more effective.

Also, considering the size of the lure is essential as crappie have small mouths, so I’ve often had more success with smaller lures.

Selecting the Right Fishing Line

The type of fishing line you use can also make a big difference.

I generally recommend a thinner, lighter line for crappie fishing as it is less visible to the fish and more sensitive, allowing you to feel even the slightest bite.

I’ve had good success with monofilament line due to its versatility and affordability. However, if I’m fishing in clear water, I often opt for a fluorocarbon line as it’s virtually invisible underwater.

Understanding the Best Time for Crappie Fishing

Crappie are most active during the early morning and late afternoon hours, making these the best times to fish.

During these times, crappie often move closer to the surface and shore to feed, making them easier to catch.

However, during colder months, during midday, when the air temperature is warmest, it can be the most productive time to fish for crappie.

Choosing the Right Fishing Rod and Reel

Choosing the right rod and reel combo can significantly enhance your crappie fishing experience.

I’ve found that a medium to light power rod between 5 and 7 feet in length offers a good balance of casting distance and sensitivity. When it comes to reels, I prefer a spinning reel in the 1000 to 3000 size range.

These reels are lightweight, easy to handle, and suitable for the light lines typically used for crappie fishing.

Now that we’ve covered some essential tips for kayak crappie fishing, let’s move on to the preparations you need to make before you hit the water.

Preparations Before Kayak Crappie Fishing

Here are some preparations I always go over before taking my kayak and going crappie fishing:

Checking Weather and Barometric Pressure

Before I embark on a kayak crappie fishing adventure, I always make it a point to check the weather and barometric pressure as these elements play a significant role in influencing crappie behavior and, consequently, my fishing success.

During periods of low-pressure, often associated with incoming storms or significant weather changes, crappie tend to move into deeper waters.

This is a response to the changes in pressure, which smaller fish, in particular, are quick to detect.

As an angler, I’ve found that I can leverage this knowledge to my advantage by timing my fishing activities to coincide with these periods of falling pressure.

Conversely, when the atmospheric pressure begins to rise, indicating more stable weather conditions, fish tend to feel more comfortable and become more active. Although fishing during these periods can be slightly better than normal, it’s worth noting that fish will likely still be in deeper waters than usual.

Choosing the Right Lures

Over the years, I’ve found that the most effective lures are those that closely mimic the natural prey of crappie:

  • Soft plastic jigs are designed with a hollow tube and multiple tentacles and can be used in a variety of water conditions. They come in a wide range of colors and sizes, allowing me to adjust my approach based on the crappie’s preferences and the current conditions.
  • Soft plastic grubs feature a twister tail that creates a pulsing and rippling motion in the water, which is highly appealing to crappie
  • Crankbaits can be a great option as they are designed to mimic the movement of small baitfish, making them irresistible to crappie

Using Multiple Rods

In my experience, using multiple rods can significantly increase your chances of success when crappie fishing as it allows you to cover more water and present your lures at different depths, increasing the likelihood of attracting crappie.

It allows you to experiment with different depths and techniques, increasing your chances of a successful catch

There are two main techniques I use when fishing with multiple rods: tight-lining and long-lining.

  • Tight-lining involves positioning the rods around the bow of my kayak and using relatively heavy weights to keep the lines vertical. This technique gives me absolute depth control, which is crucial when targeting crappie that are hanging out near structures or along the edge of a creek channel.
  • Long-lining involves positioning the rods near the stern of my kayak and pulling the baits behind. This technique is particularly effective when crappie are in transition or when they’re relating to roving schools of baitfish. Long-lining allows me to cover more water as I can troll at a faster speed compared to tight-lining.

Finding Structures for Crappie Fishing

One of the most effective strategies I’ve learned in crappie fishing is the importance of finding and fishing around structures.

Structures are physical features in the water that can range from subtle to dramatic changes in depth or contours of the lake or river bottom, and are often preferred by crappie.

Thus, when I’m out on the water, I look for structures like ledges, humps, and holes.

Ledges are the beginning of a distinct change in depth, marking the top of a drop towards deeper water. Humps, on the other hand, are shallow areas surrounded by deeper water.

Both of these structures often hold much of the food chain that crappie feast on.

I also pay attention to more complex structures like spines, cuts, and saddles as they normally attract crappie too:

  • Spines are elongated humps surrounded by deeper water, often found as a continuation off of a point from a shoreline.
  • Cuts or troughs are the inverse of spines, described as elongated holes.
  • Saddles are structures formed between two underwater humps or islands, providing both deep and shallow water structures.

Safety Measures for Kayak Crappie Fishing

Over the years, I’ve learned that being prepared can make a significant difference in ensuring a safe and enjoyable fishing experience.

One of the most important safety measures I always take is to wear a life jacket.

It’s not just a legal requirement, but it could also save my life if I accidentally go overboard. I prefer an inflatable life jacket when fishing in calm waters like flats or lakes, as it allows me to move freely.

Another crucial safety item I always have with me is a whistle or other sound-producing device as it can be a lifesaver if I get into trouble and need to attract attention. I usually keep it attached to my life jacket or around my neck so it’s always within reach.

Lastly, I always carry a knife, not just in my bag, but on my person. This is because there are various lines, ropes, and bungees on my kayak, and getting tangled in them if I accidentally flip can be dangerous.

Techniques for Kayak Crappie Fishing

Here are some recommended techniques I believe are essential for a successful time when fishing for crappie from a kayak:

The Art of Jigging

Jigging is a precise science, and you’ll want to know exactly what you’re doing.

The basics are easy to understand.

While our advice about hook size is to go big, I recommend the opposite with your jigs.

Stay as small as the wind allows, starting with 1/32 and 1/16 ounce heads.

Tiny jigs with big hooks are just what you need for crappie.

Shootin’ Jigs

Now, let’s talk about shootin’ jigs. This technique is a bit unconventional, but trust me, it’s a game-changer.

The idea is to skip your lure back into the shadows where the big slabs are hiding from predators. Traditional casting just won’t cut it here. You need to shoot your jig to get it back there, and the slow fall after that shot will trigger strike after strike.

The technique involves holding your rod in one hand and pulling back on the jig with the other, similar to how you would shoot a slingshot. When you release the jig, it shoots out and skips across the water, reaching those hard-to-reach places where crappie love to hide.

Slip Floats are King

Whether you jig or run live minnows, suspending your terminal tackle below a float is deadly.

Enter the slip float.

Slip floats move along your line, stopping where you place a tiny, castable stop which lets you reel in your line and launch just the float and hook.

Casting distance and accuracy improve markedly, and slip floats are easier to use, more adjustable, and just better all-around.

Rig ‘Em Right

As effective as jigs are, nothing beats a live minnow for crappie.

The trick is to rig them in the best possible way. Start by selecting healthy minnows.

You should already know to use a 2 to 4 Aberdeen hook, preferably below a good slip float. And if you’ve chosen a health minnow, now’s the time to consider how to hook it.

Now that we’ve covered the techniques, let’s move on to the gear.

Best Rod and Reel for Kayak Crappie Fishing

Penn Squall Lever Drag Conventional Reel and Fishing Rod Combo


  • Rod: 6.6 Feet medium-heavy rod
  • Reel: Lightweight graphite frame and sideplates
  • Handles: Non-slip grip
Penn SQL50LD3050C66 Squall Lever Drag, Casting (6-Feet 6-Inches)

First off, the lightweight graphite frame and sideplates make this combo a dream to handle. It’s sturdy without being heavy, which is exactly what you want when you’re out on the water for hours.

Also, the forged and machined aluminum spool is a nice touch too, and the line capacity rings are a godsend for keeping track of your line.

Moreover, the stainless-steel main and pinion gears are built to last, and the Dura-Drag system is smooth as butter. With 6 stainless-steel bearings and a silent double-dog anti-reverse, this reel is as reliable as they come.

Now, let’s talk about the rod.

It’s a 6’6″ medium-heavy, which is perfect for crappie fishing. It’s got enough backbone to handle a decent-sized fish, but it’s still sensitive enough to feel those subtle bites.


  • Lightweight graphite frame and sideplates
  • Forged and machined aluminum spool with line capacity rings that provides durability and helps keep track of your line.
  • Stainless-steel main and pinion gears to ensure longevity and reliable performance.
  • Dura-Drag system that offers smooth operation and reduces friction.
  • 6 stainless-steel bearings and silent double-dog anti-reverse: Provides reliability and smooth reeling.


  • Reel feels a bit stiff for the first few weeks

Other Gear to Fishing for Crappie from a Kayak

Other Gear For Kayak Crappie Fishing

When it comes to kayak crappie fishing, having the right gear can make all the difference. It’s not just about the rod and reel, but also about the other equipment that can enhance your fishing experience. Let’s delve into some of the essential gear you should consider.

The Right Fishing Line

The fishing line is a crucial part of your gear. For crappie fishing, a line rating of 2 to 8 pounds is ideal.

This range provides the perfect balance of sensitivity and strength, ensuring that you can detect those subtle crappie bites while still having enough power to reel in your catch.

A lighter line also contributes to a more stealthy presentation, which is crucial when targeting crappie as they can be easily spooked by heavier lines.

The Perfect Jig

Crappie are known to be attracted to jigs, so having a variety in your tackle box is a must.

The weight of the jig dictates the rate of fall, and at times, crappie show a preference.

Jig bodies come in a wide range of colors and shapes, and it’s a good idea to stock a series of jigheads from 1/32 to 3/32 ounce, with 1/16 ounce jigs being a mainstay.

Kayak Anchor or Anchor Stakeout Pole

In the world of kayak crappie fishing, a kayak anchor or an anchor stakeout pole, also known as an anchor pin, is an essential piece of gear as it allows you to maintain your position in the water, especially when you’re fishing in shallow areas.

Anchor pins are typically made of sturdy materials like fiberglass and range in length from 4 to 8 feet. The length you choose depends on the depth of the water you typically fish in.

For instance, if you’re fishing in water that’s 5 feet deep, an 8-foot anchor pin would be a good choice. This length allows the pin to secure into the underwater surface, keeping your kayak stable.

Comfortable Seating

Comfort is key when you’re spending hours on the water so a good kayak seat can make all the difference in your fishing experience.

Look for a seat with ample padding and back support.

Some seats even come with additional storage pockets, which can be handy for keeping your gear within reach.

Safety Gear

Last but not least, don’t forget about safety gear. A good life jacket is a must-have for any kayak fisherman. Also, consider bringing along a whistle, a headlamp for those early morning or late evening trips, and a first-aid kit. Remember, safety should always be your top priority.

Frequently Asked Questions

What bait is best for crappie fishing?

As young fish, they primarily consume tiny zooplankton and small aquatic invertebrates like insect nymphs and small snails.

As they mature, their diet shifts towards larger prey like baitfish and tadpoles. Adult crappie are particularly fond of small baitfish like minnows, shiners, and small bluegills, along with aquatic invertebrates such as insect larvae, crayfish, and freshwater shrimp.

However, if I had to pick just one bait that crappie seem to favor, it would be fathead minnows.

These minnows are a primary food source for many species of small and medium-sized gamefish, including crappie, and no live bait seems to outperform them when it comes to crappie fishing.

What is the #1 crappie lake in the US?

The United States is home to many fantastic crappie fishing spots, but if you’re looking for the #1 crappie lake, many anglers would point you towards Grenada Lake in Mississippi.

Known as the “home of the 3-pound crappie,” Grenada Lake is famous for its large crappie population and has been the site of numerous fishing tournaments and records.

What do crappie eat the most?

Crappie are omnivorous and their diet can vary greatly depending on their age, the season, and the availability of food sources.

However, one thing that remains consistent is their preference for small baitfish.

As they mature and reach adulthood, crappie still consume insects and aquatic shrimp, tadpoles, and crayfish, but their diet evolves to feeding mostly on baitfish. They readily consume small bluegills, small yellow perch, small bass, along with shiners, suckers, small shad, and minnows. Fathead minnows, in particular, seem to be a favorite food source for crappie.

Related Posts

Hi, I’m Tim Mueller, a fisherman from Michigan. During all my life I loved fishing and everything that surround this activity. After many months of thinking about it, I’ve decided to create this website to provide the best advice for fishers all around the world.